Short on Showtime

Brevard College students produce theatrical performance in a hurry 

Theater students Talley Sugg (left) and Emma Harris are auteur-ing on a deadline.
Portrait by Karin Strickland

It’s Kitt Webb’s first day at Étoiles Noire, a hoity-toity French restaurant, and he has already screwed up. While making coq au vin, Webb subbed out Burgundy wine for an Austrian red called Zweigelt. The mistake adds a toothsome depth, but the scathing head chef, Monet Tremblay, isn’t having any of it. “I do not want to see it again,” Tremblay howls in the script. “If I do, you will be out of this kitchen.”

The scene closes with Webb elbow deep in soapy water, ruefully relegated to the dish pit. But Webb isn’t one to shudder in the face of adversity — or menacing French ladies. 

In Quarter Cup, a play written by Brevard College theater major Talley Sugg, Webb is gritty and rough-hewn. A line cook at a Denny’s in Long Island, Webb has been itching for this job as chef de tournant at Étoiles Noires. But he must compete with his antipode, the play’s main character: classically trained chef Connor Dubois. Webb and Dubois instantly butt heads, and Dubois relishes his competitor’s oversights, including the burgundy blunder. But it’s Dubois’ own struggles with self image, his journey to find his way, that form the heart of the play. 

As the action unfolds, a relationship develops. And it isn’t platonic. 

“Connor had a lot of things handed to him. Meanwhile, Kitt had to work to pay rent and afford food. The two don’t immediately understand one another because their upbringings were so different,” explains Sugg. “A passion for cooking is where they find common ground.”

Quarter Cup will debut this December during the 72 Hour Play Festival at Brevard College. As its name suggests, the event is a breathless venture to produce a show in just three days’ time. As the director, theater student Emma Harris will oversee everything from casting to set design to music choice. Auditions and callbacks will be held on December 1. The 72-hour clock starts the next day with rehearsals at 6pm. It’s then a mad dash to the finish line — showtime on Sunday, December 5.

Harris has never directed under so much stress. She’s worried about the clock, of course. For many actors, 72 hours is barely enough time to memorize lines. It’s definitely not enough time for set designers to build a New York City apartment and industrial kitchen from scratch. (Harris will be using projections instead.) But more than a looming deadline, Harris is worried about doing Sugg’s screenplay justice.  

“This will be the very first production of Quarter Cup,” Harris points out. “It’s super exciting, but there’s also a lot of pressure. Moving forward, people will use my work as a reference point.”  

As the playwright, Sugg is dealing with her own demons, namely a “little ball of anxiety” inside her chest. She’s worried about how Brevard College and the surrounding community will receive Quarter Cup. At face value, the play is about good food. After all, Sugg used Julia Child’s cookbooks and Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating to understand the fundamentals of traditional French cuisine. But the subplot is less about chicken confit and more about challenging heteronormativity. 

Webb and Dubois kindle something more than friendship. Wanda Simmons, Dubois’ roommate, is a strong and confident woman in the male-dominated world of butchery. EJ Willson is a non-binary chef at Étoiles Noire. Almost every character bends gender norms, albeit subtly. 

“The play isn’t about gender or sexuality — it’s about people,” says Sugg. “I want the audience to look at each character and see themselves.”

Brevard College Theatre Company will debut Quarter Cup to a general audience on Sunday, December 5, 6pm, at The Morrison Playhouse (1 Brevard College Drive, Brevard). Free. For more information, visit brevard.edu. 

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